Deutsche Telekom will be doubling its investment on research in Israel, company CEO Ren? Obermann told TheMarker. The lion's portion of that investment will apparently go to the German giant's research lab at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, which has been operational for three years.
Obermann, who has served as CEO since 2006, is visiting Israel to participate in the European-Israeli Business Dialog forum held Tuesday.
To date, the German telecommunications giant has invested more than $20 million in Israel, say industry observers. Of that, at least $16 million went to the university laboratory over the last three years. Since the company is highly pleased with the outcome of its investments, Obermann said, it means to double that amount over the next three years.
The lab is likely to be only one recipient of Deutsche Telekom's largesse. While the company definitely means to expand its R&D center at Ben-Gurion University, Obermann said, as it doubles its budget for R&D in Israel, it has other fish to fry as well. "We have three investments in young companies developing technology. We are very pleased with the projects coming [out of Israel] and are trying to take advantage of innovations in the areas of network security and IPTV - Internet protocol for television."
The Ben-Gurion center was Deutsche Telekom's first outside Germany. Starting with funding of $16 million for three years, it works closely with the company's hub in Berlin. While engaged in a number of areas, one of its chief focuses is a crucial issue in today's online world: information security.
The German company means to increase the number of R&D people working at the Ben-Gurion center, said Deutsche Telekom people who met with Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, minister of industry and trade, last week. While the Deutsche Telekom R&D center in Germany has 200 employees, the company aims for the Israeli one to have 150. They also mean to move the center from its present location to a high-tech park slated for the Be'er Sheva area.
"Unlike others who ask what Israel can give them, I ask what we can do to take better advantage of Israel's innovative and technological potential," said Obermann. "How we can take advantage faster of technological innovations, for mutual profit." The company would be interested in "contributing more" to startups in Israel, he added: "We are very pleased with the level of innovation here."
In recent years Deutsche Telekom has been getting into cellular and media technologies, expanding in part through acquisitions. Its acquisition strategy in Israel is not affected by the security situation or political developments, Obermann said.
Yet at this stage Deutsche Telekom isn't considering any new strategic investments in Israel, the CEO clarified: It's busy digesting companies it bought in America and Europe, where the investment opportunities were more attractive than here. But it has collaborative relations with two leading Israeli-American companies: Amdocs, which makes billing and customer-care systems for phone companies, and Comverse, which focuses on voicemail technology.
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